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County leaders pledge support to AB 109 committee

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
4/11/2012

 

Two weeks after local criminal justice officials complained about the county’s lack of support, two county leaders said they would do whatever it takes to help.

Supervisor Lori Simpson and County Counsel Craig Settlemire pledged their support to an executive committee’s effort to implement state inmate realignment in Plumas County.

“I pledge to you that I am going to be available to address any components that have to deal with this (Assembly Bill 109),” Settlemire said.

Settlemire and Simpson addressed members of the Plumas County Community Corrections Partnership during the executive committee’s meeting Wednesday, April 4, at the Plumas County Courthouse.

The committee, made up of a superior court judge, the sheriff, district attorney, chief probation officer and a public defender, is tasked with retooling the county’s criminal justice system to conform to AB 109.

Committee members chastised the county during their March 22 meeting. They said a lack of support, understanding and unnecessary roadblocks by the county were “an embarrassment” and could cost the county tens of thousands of dollars in state funding.

The committee singled out Settlemire, Chief Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad and Auditor Shawn Montgomery for making their daunting task even tougher. They said those three should attend meetings and try to help instead of creating bureaucratic obstacles.

Ingstad and Montgomery were again absent. Ingstad was on vacation outside the county. Montgomery said in an email to District Attorney David Hollister — which she forwarded to Feather Publishing — “I will be unable to attend.”

Barbara Palmerton, fiscal officer for the district attorney’s office, said Montgomery needs to see what the committee is trying to do.

The district attorney’s office blamed Montgomery and Settlemire for denying the DA’s office $5,600 in state AB 109 funds to help pay for the costs of a critical case management system.

“I wish (Montgomery) was here. Because she said that she didn’t think that the work we were doing qualified for the ($5,600) stipends,” Palmerton said. “It demonstrates a total ignorance of what this group has been talking about for months. And if she had been here, she would have known. She wouldn’t have said something like that.”

The committee said Plumas County could lose thousands of dollars in state funding without the case management system.

Hollister said the state would look at inmate statistics generated by the system to determine future AB 109 funding for the county.

Public defender Doug Prouty said the county has to start moving fast. He reiterated that Plumas County is far behind the state’s 57 other counties in implementing the inmate realignment.

“AB 109 is such a game-changer. It requires a new way of thinking, and actually a new culture in the local government,” Prouty said. “What we are looking at is if there is any possible way to fast-track this, so that we can get to the point where other counties are at.”

The committee said the county’s most glaring deficiency is its lack of alcohol and drug services. Without that critical component, judges can’t render split sentences.

That means offenders have to spend their entire sentences in the county jail, which Hollister said is filling up quickly.

“The 57 other counties are already doing this (split sentences),” Hollister said. “They already have their therapists, their alcohol and drug programs. And their judges are doing split sentences already.

“We have not yet done a split sentence. And the reason is, we don’t have any services to give them.”

Settlemire and Simpson said they understood the urgency to restart the county’s alcohol and drug program, which was shut down in 2008.

Efforts to restart the program suffered a setback when its administrator, Public Health Director Mimi Hall, resigned last month.

Simpson assured the committee she was going “to take the point” to make sure A&D services started as soon as possible.

“The world crashed a couple weeks ago,” Simpson said, referring to Hall’s resignation. “We are trying to deal with the crash.

“I realize the drug and alcohol situation is very critical. And I’m still committed to providing those services,” she said. “Let me work with you guys. Whatever you need me to do, I will be here to assist you.”

After venting their collective frustration, the committee thanked Simpson and Settlemire for their show of support.

“I’m so appreciative that you and Mr. Settlemire are here,” Superior Court Judge Ira Kaufman told Simpson. “It’s fantastic, because it’s a start.  We are going to solve these problems and we are going to make this happen.”

Settlemire told the committee that he would have attended previous meetings if he had been asked to. But like the other people in the room, he said he wanted to look forward instead of arguing about the past.

“I agree that this is a game-changer in dealing with the criminal justice system in California,” Settlemire said. “And we don’t have a lot of time to put things in place. So we are going to give this the attention it deserves.

“We are solution oriented. If anybody has any questions, you know where I am. You can come and talk to me and we can work on solutions.”

 


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